Medical marijuana bill presents good start for Louisiana drug reform

Quinn Burke, Associate Views Editor

As a new bill for medical marijuana rolls into the Louisiana State Senate, there has been increased discussion about the applications of cannabis. The proposed bill includes the use of cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma and severe muscle pain. This bill aims to expand the 2016 medical law to cover more symptoms and diseases.  

Medical marijuana has many benefits. CBD oils have been used to treat epilepsy, slow down glaucoma and provide relief for nerve damage. Opening up marijuana use for more people could cause a significant increase in people’s quality of life. These are all arguments that have been heard and debated ad nauseum, but this new bill comes with a new angle.

Proponents of the bill are pushing a very specific narrative, that allowing people to use medical marijuana will curb opioid abuse. The opioid crisis has arisen because opioids have been over-prescribed for pain management. Though effective at blocking pain, these drugs have downsides, even when prescribed medically. According to a study released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 75 percent of opioid users report that they started on prescription drugs and 80 percent of heroin users reported first using prescription opioids. Opioids are more addictive than previous studies concluded.  

Marijuana can provide pain relief without being addictive or causing a mortality risk. The drug can be prescribed to combat pain without causing an addiction or seriously harming the patient’s health. Though this may seem like “stoner logic,” there is some backing for it. Researchers have found that in states where marijuana is medically legal there is a 14 percent drop in opioid addiction. This number is still somewhat small, but it is a markedly noticeable and has some clear effects.

Marijuana is not some cure-all for the opioid crisis. The researchers behind the study have noted that there is simply a correlation with no way to determine causation. Simply legalizing marijuana will not undo the opioid crisis or even provide an effective alternative in many cases. Cannabis is not a wonder drug that fixes everything, nor can it always provide effective pain relief for common symptoms that lead to opioid addiction.

Medical marijuana is a net positive. Its legalization would cut down on the bloated and abusive prison system and allow patients to properly treat their medical issues, all while generating much-needed income for the state. On those grounds, this bill should be supported, but the opioid push is shaky at best. Though it certainly has helped some people, it is not a band-aid. The people of Louisiana cannot rely on medical marijuana to fix the opioid crisis. While this bill should be supported and passed, the state government needs to put more emphasis on solving the opioid crisis itself. People are dying every day from addiction and medical marijuana cannot fix that.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Quinn is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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